MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) came under fire from Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who alleged that small town lottery (STL) operations are being used as a front for the illegal numbers game jueteng.
During the House games and amusement committee’s probe into illegal gambling on Monday, February 13, Alvarez told PCSO Chairman Jose Jorge Corpuz to stop operating STL or the House of Representatives will be forced to file a complaint against them before the Office of the Ombudsman.
Alvarez first asked the PCSO if their charter allows them to issue licenses and franchises to STL agents.
Lawyer Annaliza Inciong, PCSO legal department manager, said this is not true.
“The PCSO does not issue licenses or franchises to STL corporations. They are our agents like lotto agents. They are partners,” she explained.
Corpuz also cited Republic Act Number 1169, which confers upon the PCSO “the power to hold and conduct charity sweepstakes, races, lotteries and other similar activities in [a] national scale.”
A visibly peeved Alvarez then told the PCSO chairman that STL operations are not national in scale.
“‘Yung binibigay ‘nyong STL, national scale ba ‘yan? Provincial scale ‘yung bola ‘nyo diyan. Alam ‘nyo, ‘wag na tayong magbolahan. Naghahanap lang kayo ng justification para sa jueteng!” said Alvarez.
(The STL operations you’re operating, is that national in scale? Your operations there are provincial in scale. You know, let’s stop fooling ourselves. You’re just looking for a justification for jueteng!)
“We are now telling you that what you are doing is illegal. Congress is the one that gives you your charter. At saka kami mismo ang nagsasabi sa inyo na mali ‘yung ginagawa ‘nyo dahil ‘yan ay wala sa charter ‘nyo. Dapat itigil ‘nyo ‘yan, unless gusto ‘nyong mahabla sa Ombudsman for doing the things that you are not authorized [to do] (We are telling you now that what you are doing is wrong because it’s not in your charter. You should stop that now, unless you want to face a complaint before the Ombudsman for doing the things you are not authorized to do),” he added.
Past administrations came up with STL to combat jueteng. The idea was to have lottery operations that are registered with the government, so taxes are collected and bribes to authorities are avoided.
Reports have surfaced over the years, however, that there are some jueteng lords who also bagged STL franchises.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II earlier said Malacañang already created a task force to look into STL operations – specifically those which are not paying the right taxes. (READ: Gov’t shortchanged? PCSO imposes up to P300M monthly bond on STL operators)
PCSO ‘bows to the desire of Congress’
Games and amusement panel chairperson Gus Tambunting then asked Corpuz if they would agree to amend the PCSO’s charter.
The PCSO chairman agreed, but he did not elaborate on what provisions should be changed concerning the PCSO’s operations.
“Noon pa ho kailangan ma-amend charter ng PCSO (Even before, there was already a need to amend the PCSO’s charter). Allocation of charity fund [is] one. The purpose of PCSO needs to be widened properly at saka ‘yung other games (and the other games), if we can conduct other games,” he said.
Corpuz also maintained the legality of STL and said that government revenues for the year are projected to reach almost P28 billion. (READ: PCSO mulls small town lottery expansion to boost funds)
But Alvarez did not buy this, saying, “Payments in terms of billions of pesos will never legalize what is illegal.”
Corpuz then replied that the PCSO will “bow to the desire of Congress.”
“That’s why, your honors, like I said earlier, we bow to the desire of Congress. So if you want to amend the mandate of PCSO, [we will agree]. Yes, one of your observations is to change the game plan. PCSO is okay. We bow to the desire of Congress,” he said. – Rappler.com